Althouse | category: terrorism



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

I'm going to read "Fear pervades Tennessee's trans community amid focus on Nashville shooter's gender identity."

At NBC News. 

The headline signals that we are to prioritize empathy for members of the trans community because they are experiencing fear rather than to want to find out what happened and what role transgenderism may have played in the murder spree. This is the idea that just to talk about the subject or to want to understand and analyze something having to do with transgender people is already inflicting a harm: fear. The message is: Don't even think about it, move on, because your attention is hurting vulnerable people.

This, though three 9-year-old children were murdered, along with 3 adults, and our natural empathy would go to them. Instead, we're expected to look away because trans people feel fear of what you might think if you think about it. Indeed, fear pervades the trans community — at least in Tennessee.

From the article:
Within 10 minutes of police saying that the suspect was transgender, the hashtag #TransTerrorism trended on Twitter.

I added the link and scanned some of what is on Twitter. I can see that there are some people trying to put together a pattern that would show that trans people have a propensity toward violence or a plan, as a group, to seek vengeance for perceived wrongs. 

Around the same time, Republican lawmakers — including Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, and conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. — insinuated in social media posts that the shooter’s gender identity played a role in the shooting. And by Tuesday morning, the cover of the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post read: “Transgender killer targets Christian school.” 
“We are terrified for the LGBTQ community here,” Kim Spoon, a trans activist based in Knoxville, Tennessee, said. “More blood’s going to be shed, and it’s not going to be shed in a school.”....
Denise Sadler, a drag performer who is transgender, said... “You don’t know if [the shooter’s gender identity] is going to trigger a community of people who already hated us to come and try to shoot us to prove a point,” Sadler said. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of hurt going on, there’s a lot of anger going on, there’s a lot of confusion going on.”...

It sounds as though everyone is afraid of violence. Some people are afraid that random transgender people are going to become murderers, and some transgender people are afraid some of those fearful people are going to go on the offensive and randomly murder transgender people. This is an amorphous but specific fear of violence. Both groups are afraid of each other. 

So far this year, Tennessee lawmakers passed two bills targeting LGBTQ people: A first-of-its-kind law that will criminalize some drag performances takes effect Saturday, and another that will ban gender-affirming care for the state’s minors becomes effective July 1. Nathan Higdon, the chief financial officer of Knoxville Pride Center, is helping organize protests against the new drag law in Nashville and Knoxville this upcoming weekend. 
Higdon said that while he and other organizers are “scared sh–less” that the conservative backlash over the shooter’s suspected gender identity will prompt violence, they’re going forward with the events as planned. “The people who hate us are always going to hate us,” Higdon said. “We can’t not do these things. We just can’t not show up.”

Are the protesters of the new laws in danger because of the school shooting? I'd like to think that human beings can think straight and would not hold the acts of an individual murderer against the group that murderer belongs to (or may belong to), but passion and irrationality are high, and protests are not exemplars of rationality and impassivity.

Not usually.

They can be. 

Matt Taibbi talks to Joe Rogan about the Twitter Files.

It's all interesting, but let me highlight the part that begins around 10 minutes in, when Taibbi explains Twitter's "glorification of violence" policy, which he says is "the speech version of stochastic terrorism":
Stochastic terrorism is... this idea that you can incite people to violence by saying things that are not specifically inciting but are statistically likely to create somebody who will do something violent even if it's not individually predictable. 
That's what they did with Trump. They basically invented this concept that yes, he may not have actually incited violence, but the whole totality of his persona is inciting, so we're going to strike him. So they sort of massively expanded the purview of things they can censor, just in that one moment.

In The Twitter Files, people, in real time, devising this policy and deciding that it's the right idea. 

There was an article in Scientific American last November about stochastic terrorism: "How Stochastic Terrorism Uses Disgust to Incite Violence/Pundits are weaponizing disgust to fuel violence, and it’s affecting our humanity." That's by Bryn Nelson. 

Why have I never noticed this term before? From the Scientific American article:

Dehumanizing and vilifying a person or group of people can provoke what scholars and law enforcement officials call stochastic terrorism, in which ideologically driven hate speech increases the likelihood that people will violently and unpredictably attack the targets of vicious claims.... 

Propagandists have fomented disgust to dehumanize Jewish people as vermin; Black people as subhuman apes; Indigenous people as “savages”; immigrants as “animals” unworthy of protection; and members of the LGBTQ community as sexual deviants and “predators” who prey upon children.... 

People who are trying to outlaw gender-affirming care for transgender kids and purge pro-gay books from library shelves have stirred up disgust by invoking the specter of sexual “grooming”; others have made the same accusations against those speaking out against such legislative efforts, and some have used the idea to fuel disinformation about the cause of scattered pediatric monkeypox cases. The manufactured grooming mythology has spurred another round of moral disgust and outrage.... 

Researchers have estimated that transgender people are more than fourfold more likely to be the victims of violent crime than their cisgender counterparts, and while not a direct link to violence, other scientists have linked disgust sensitivity and authoritarianism to a higher opposition to transgender rights.....  

So if your criticism of something you don't like elicits disgust, you can, in fairly short order, be accused of inciting violence. I certainly have been seeing this form of reasoning, which, as Taibbi said, "massively expand[s] the purview of things [some people believe] they can censor." It's so threatening to free speech values, especially when biased censors are deciding which speech fomented the disgust they find... disgusting.  

Here's Christopher Rufo's response to the Scientific American article: "The 'Stochastic Terror' Lie/The Left’s latest gambit for suppressing speech is built on preposterous grounds." 

What does the word "stochastic" mean? OED: "Randomly determined; that follows some random probability distribution or pattern, so that its behaviour may be analysed statistically but not predicted precisely."

The idea of "stochastic terrorism" seems designed to blame someone as a leader of a group when there is no group. And the "leader" is a speaker who has only stimulated the beliefs and emotions that may cause some listeners to decide individually and on their own to take action.  

"Over the years, Rushdie’s friends have marvelled at his ability to write amid the fury unleashed on him."

"Martin Amis has said that, if he were in his shoes, 'I would, by now, be a tearful and tranquilized three-hundred-pounder, with no eyelashes or nostril hairs.' And yet 'Victory City' is Rushdie’s sixteenth book since the fatwa.... During the pandemic, Rushdie... was already toying with an idea for another novel. He’d reread Thomas Mann’s 'The Magic Mountain' and Franz Kafka’s 'The Castle,' novels that deploy a naturalistic language to evoke strange, hermetic worlds—an alpine sanatorium, a remote provincial bureaucracy. Rushdie thought about using a similar approach to create a peculiar imaginary college as his setting. He started keeping notes...."

"He has lost more than forty pounds since the stabbing. The right lens of his eyeglasses is blacked over. The attack left him blind in that eye.... He speaks as fluently as ever, but his lower lip droops on one side. The ulnar nerve in his left hand was badly damaged.... I asked how his spirits were. 'Well, you know, I’ve been better,' he said dryly. 'But, considering what happened, I’m not so bad. As you can see, the big injuries are healed, essentially. I have feeling in my thumb and index finger and in the bottom half of the palm. I’m doing a lot of hand therapy, and I’m told that I’m doing very well.... There have been nightmares—not exactly the incident, but just frightening. Those seem to be diminishing. I’m fine. I’m able to get up and walk around.... It’s great to be back... It’s someplace which is not a hospital.... I’ve found it very, very difficult to write. I sit down to write, and nothing happens. I write, but it’s a combination of blankness and junk, stuff that I write and that I delete the next day. I’m not out of that forest yet, really.... I’ve simply never allowed myself to use the phrase  'writer’s block.' Everybody has a moment when there’s nothing in your head.... I’ve always tried very hard not to adopt the role of a victim... Then you’re just sitting there saying, Somebody stuck a knife in me! Poor me... Which I do sometimes think."

“I failed, failed and absolutely failed to understand just how exhausted by and disgusted with the perpetual representation of Muslim men and women as terrorists or former terrorists or potential terrorists the Muslim people are."

Said Abigail Disney — grandniece of Walt Disney, "a titan in the documentary world" — who was the executive director of “Jihad Rehab,” called it “freaking brilliant” in an email to the director, then disavowed it.

She is quoted in "Sundance Liked Her Documentary on Terrorism, Until Muslim Critics Didn’t/The film festival gave Meg Smaker’s 'Jihad Rehab' a coveted spot in its 2022 lineup, but apologized after an outcry over her race and her approach" (NYT).

Advised by a PR firm to apologize, the director Meg Smaker said "What was I apologizing for? For trusting my audience to make up their own mind?"

Smaker spent 16 months inside a Saudi rehabilitation facility interviewing former Guantánamo detainees.

The attacks came from what  the NYT characterizes as "the left":

Arab and Muslim filmmakers and their white supporters accused Ms. Smaker of Islamophobia and American propaganda. Some suggested her race was disqualifying, a white woman who presumed to tell the story of Arab men.

The filmmaker Assia Boundaoui, said: "To see my language and the homelands of folks in my community used as backdrops for white savior tendencies is nauseating. The talk is all empathy, but the energy is Indiana Jones."

"Though 'obscurantism' may be a word that is, well, obscure, to Americans, [Macron] is right. The line between the fight for freedom..."

"... and the surrender to hatred is absolute. The assault on Rushdie only clarifies its contours."

Writes Adam Gopnik, reacting to what Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, said on Friday evening:
“For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism. His fight is our fight; it is universal.”

"Efforts are bound to be made" is an effortfully passive construction. Who is making these efforts? Who is putting "the acts of Rushdie" on the same level as the acts of "his tormenters and would-be executioners? Gopnik is talking about "the idea... that words are equal to actions," and he's seeing this idea among American progressives. Yes, Gopnik grouped American anti-free-speech progressives with murderous Iranian theocrats. Are you seeing American progressives equating Rushdie with those who've been trying to kill him?

Now, let's look at Macron's word, "obscurantism." Gopnik notes that it's obscure and moves on, but I want to stop on it. I've blogged about it before, back in October 2020, when Macron said, "Obscurantism and the violence that goes with it will not win," after a teacher was decapitated, apparently for showing students a caricature from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo as he taught about freedom of speech.

I quoted Wikipedia:
Obscurantism and Obscurationism describe the practice of deliberately presenting information in an imprecise, abstruse manner designed to limit further inquiry and understanding. There are two historical and intellectual denotations of Obscurantism: (1) the deliberate restriction of knowledge—opposition to disseminating knowledge; and (2) deliberate obscurity—a recondite literary or artistic style, characterized by deliberate vagueness.....

In the 18th century, Enlightenment philosophers applied the term obscurantist to any enemy of intellectual enlightenment and the liberal diffusion of knowledge. In the 19th century, in distinguishing the varieties of obscurantism found in metaphysics and theology from the "more subtle" obscurantism of the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and of modern philosophical skepticism, Friedrich Nietzsche said: "The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding, but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence."

The OED defines the word simply and unobscurely: "Opposition to inquiry, enlightenment, or reform." 

Perhaps the word in French feels more conversational. I suspect that it has been chosen in order to make it possible to discuss the problem without speaking of religion. You secularize the idea, so that the set of things you're referring to includes some nonreligious things — like superstition and hostility to science and free inquiry — and excludes some religion that is rational enough to accept scientific inquiry and peaceful coexistence.


And here's a new report from the London Times, quoting Rushdie's son Zafar: 
"Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.... Though his life changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humour remains intact. We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defence and administered first aid along with the police and doctors who have cared for him and for the outpouring of love and support from around the world."

What's the difference?

What's the difference?

It's interesting, the differences that matter to people, the endless quest to distinguish alligators from crocodiles and psychopaths from sociopaths, but what I wanted to know was the difference between vandalism and terrorism. 

I'm reading "Madison anti-abortion headquarters hit by apparent Molotov cocktail, vandalism, graffiti" in the Wisconsin State Journal: "Vandals set a fire inside the Madison headquarters of the anti-abortion group...."

What is the word "vandalism" doing in that headline, which specifies 2 things — Molotov cocktail and graffiti? Is there some additional thing that was done that justifies putting "vandalism" in that sequence of words? A firebombing is more than vandalism, and the graffiti says "If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either," so there was a specific intent to terrorize people over their political beliefs and actions.  

I blogged that article last night — here — and I didn't say much, but I did shift to the word "terrorists" after quoting the newspaper's word "vandalism." (I wrote "The terrorists left graffiti....")

To say "vandalism" is to minimize the seriousness of this crime. Ironically, it also elevates the target, since the older meanings of "vandalism" highlight the destruction of things that are "beautiful, venerable, or worthy of preservation" (OED). 

This morning, I'm seeing that The New York Times is using the word "vandalism" (the headline"Anti-Abortion Group in Wisconsin Is Hit by Arson, Authorities Say" — uses the word "arson"):

The headquarters of an anti-abortion group in Madison, Wis., was set on fire on Sunday morning in an act of vandalism that included the attempted use of a Molotov cocktail and graffiti that read “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either,” according to the police.

Why call it "an act of vandalism"? That seems to ascribe a motivation to whoever did this — a motivation of either random destruction or irreverence. But, based on the graffiti, the motive was to terrorize. If you hesitate to say "terrorism," refrain from talking about the motive. Don't downgrade it by calling it "vandalism."

And ask yourself, NYT, if a pro-abortion group were firebombed and graffiti'd with an equivalent threat, would you not easily and comfortably go to the strong word "terrorism"?

"My mom was terrified that my dad, a police inspector in charge of Senate security, was not coming back on March 1, 1954, the day four Puerto Rican nationalists pulled out guns and sprayed bullets..."

"... from the spectators’ gallery above the House floor. Five representatives were wounded. My father ran over from the Senate and wrested a 38-caliber pistol from one of the shooters. My brother Kevin, then in second grade, was traumatized by my mom’s terror as she stood in the kitchen, frozen, before she got word that my dad was OK... I thought about this listening to Dominique Luzuriaga, Officer Rivera’s widow, give her eulogy through sobs... Officer Rivera and his 27-year-old partner, Wilbert Mora, died answering a 911 call from a mother in Harlem who said her son had verbally threatened her. They walked down a hall in the apartment and the son jumped out and opened fire, fatally wounding both officers... [Rivera] was the class clown, but he got a serious crush on Dominique in grade school. Teachers had to sit them apart so they could focus...  When she was called to Harlem Hospital, she said, 'Walking up those steps, seeing everybody staring at me, was the scariest moment I’ve experienced.' Standing by her dead husband, wrapped in sheets, she told him: 'Wake up, baby. I’m here.' In the eulogy, she often talked directly to her husband, as though he were standing at her side: 'The little bit of hope I had that you would come back to life just to say "Goodbye" or just to say "I love you" one more time had left. I was lost. I’m still lost.'"

From "Rhapsody for a Boy in Blue" by Maureen Dowd (NYT).

To read more about that March 1, 1954 incident, here's the Wikipedia article. Excerpt: "The assailants were arrested, tried and convicted in federal court, and given long sentences, amounting to life imprisonment. In 1978 and 1979, their sentences were commuted by President Jimmy Carter."

And from "Rafael Cancel Miranda, Gunman in ’54 Attack on Congress, Dies at 89/He and three others opened fire on a crowded House chamber in the cause of Puerto Rican independence. Some saw him as a terrorist, others as a hero" (NYT, March 3, 2020):

“Can you imagine us thinking we could overthrow the U.S. government with little pistols?” he told The Militant. “I wish I could!” 

He referred to the attack as “an armed demonstration.” 

“We knew that if we went with signs, we weren’t going to get attention,” he said.

"The British man shot dead in the Texas synagogue siege was investigated by MI5 in late 2020, Whitehall sources confirmed to The Times."

"Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was the subject of a 'short lead investigation' for at least four weeks.... The authorities were already facing questions about why Akram was able to travel to the US, where he purchased a handgun, given he had a criminal record for offences including violence... Akram, from Blackburn, who once ranted about the September 11 attacks, was part of MI5’s pool of 40,000 closed subjects of interest.... The case was closed before it progressed to a full-blown inquiry involving intrusive techniques such as eavesdropping.... When he travelled to the US in late December, Akram was not on the Home Office warnings index, the watchlist that allows police at airports to intercept would-be passengers of concern. Sources said that it would be 'disproportionate' for someone assessed as being no threat to be on the list."

I'm sure you've read elsewhere that the rabbi engineered the escape — which involved throwing a chair at the armed hostage-taker. I like this justifiably proud statement by the rabbi, Jeffrey Cohen: "We escaped. We weren’t released or freed." 

"The Texas Department of Public Safety said the man had demanded to see his 'sister,' who may not actually be related to him and who is currently in U.S. federal custody..."

"... for 'terroristic events' in Afghanistan. 'The man claims he and his sister will be going to Jannah (Muslim belief of heaven) after he sees her,' the department said in a statement earlier on Saturday. The congregation had been holding a service... being live streamed on its Facebook page when... a man could be heard shouting about dying and not liking police officers... Many Jews expressed exhaustion on Saturday at the security concerns surrounding practicing their faith at a time when antisemitism comes from many sources, including white supremacists and Islamic extremists.... 'This is Jewish life in 2022... If you attend religious services without armed guards at the entrance and without fear of attack... you do not experience religious life as American Jews do.'"

"'I don’t buy that,' Carlson said. 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t buy that.' The thing is: Carlson shouldn’t have bought it."

"This, after all, was hardly the first time Cruz labeled Jan. 6 a terrorist attack. He did so the very next day -- 'a despicable act of terrorism' — and in a Jan. 8 tweet. He did so in a local news interview published Jan. 8, as well. Even more than four months after the riot, while voting against the creation of a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission, Cruz was still using that word. 'The January 6 terrorist attack on the Capitol was a dark moment in our nation’s history,' Cruz’s May 28 statement began. That is, indeed, a lot of slipping up to do — over a long time — for a Princeton- and Harvard-educated lawyer.... This wasn’t him slipping up; this was him deciding that the talking point was no longer welcome.... Cruz proceeded to say that he has long labeled those who attack police officers as terrorists and that’s merely what he was doing here. Carlson was again unimpressed and argued — again, validly! — that people who attack police officers should be put in jail, but that doesn’t make them terrorists."

From "Ted Cruz grovels to Tucker Carlson over Jan. 6 ‘terrorist attack’ remark" (WaPo). You don't have to trust WaPo. interview:

I'd like to see a list of all the times Cruz did call those who attack police officers terrorists. But even if he can claim that consistently, over a long period of time, he's used the word "terrorist" in that specific way, it still wouldn't justify calling the January 6th incident a terrorist attack, only calling a subset of the protesters terrorists. To call the entire incident a terrorist attack, you'd need some sort of pre-existing plan to attack the police. 

Does Cruz's position have something to do with the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, where many people came out to protests and then a subset proceeded to get violent? Did he ascribe the intent to commit acts of violence to the entire protesting group? If so, that might explain Cruz's effort at consistency, and it might also cause fair-minded people to take better care in demonizing protesters. 

We need and value our protesters in America. Yes, sometimes, some protesters go too far. They get violent. They break into buildings. But big protests are not terrorist attacks. I can understand the motivation to pressure people to stay home and not even appear in a protest lest they be deemed to participate in terrorism. That's a contemptible motivation. 
Matt Taibbi talks to Joe Rogan about the Twitter Files.What's the difference?"'I don’t buy that,' Carlson said. 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. I don’t buy that.' The thing is: Carlson shouldn’t have bought it."

Report "Althouse"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?